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Fantasia 2019 Review: “Knives and Skin” (2019) ★★★


Grief is one of the saddest parts of life each and everyone has to go through. There’s nothing right or wrong about it, just human reaction to something we lose with no chance of getting the beloved person back. As adults, we never want to fail. And when some of us still do, what is the right step to be taken? As a teenager, there’s always the first love, first kiss, heartbreak, and disappointment. All these are some things we can’t escape. “Knives and Skin” takes a bold step to explore all the nuanced issues, including the disappearance of a child without a trace.

Written and directed by Jennifer Reeder, “Knives and Skins” is a multi-layered character study teenage drama that touches quite significantly the adult life as well. It all starts with the disappearance of Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley), who on Friday night goes out with her boyfriend and never returns home. Her mother, Lisa (Marika Engelhardt), can’t stop thinking of Carolyn day and night as her plea to locate her daughter’s whereabouts rather than drown into grief is the only way she knew to explore.

Doug Darlington is an inexperienced detective (James Vincent Meredith) who is assigned to investigate the case while he himself is in the midst of a family crisis with his wife Renee (Kate Arrington) who is in search of some kind of satisfaction outside of her marriage. As the complex relationship of every character unfolds, whether within the high school or outside of it, whether it’s Lisa or her long-gone daughter, the film cleverly opens up the wounds of human condition turning it into a tool that can be challenged in so many ways.

In the end, “Knives and Skin” does not have one particular protagonist – each character you meet has their part to play. While everyone is important, it’s their dark experience which captivates the viewer’s attention as it gets increasingly interesting to watch how adults and even the younger generation set themselves on a self-destructive path with no way out. And even if they find one, it becomes a coming-of-age story not only for students but for their parents as well who did not even notice, no matter at what age they are, deep in their heart they’re yet to learn how to live a basic life before moving forward.

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